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A palatial day out in vast parkland, complete with stories of famous guests and big slides for little kids
If you’re a music nut, you’ll know Knebworth as the site of a huge gig by Pink Floyd in ’75, or the Stones in ’76, or the many super-sized shows since. But there’s also the grand country mansion, Knebworth House, which dates back far further than the invention of the electric guitar.
The grand, romantic country castle that Knebworth House appears to be today reflects the Victorian taste for stucco – a nineteenth century refurbishment of what was originally a Tudor mansion. With its turrets and domes, gargoyles and vast gardens, you can see why 1970s rock promoters deemed it the ideal setting for epic shows. But don’t worry, on a regular visit, you won’t have to pick your way through dazed and confused festival goers.
The tour of Knebworth House takes in 500 years of wealthy family life, with ornate decor, sumptuous bedrooms and curiosities collected from world travels. There’s also the chance to hear a few choice stories about famous visitors, that over the years included Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Noel Gallagher.Knebworth House is great for garden lovers, too. There are 28 acres of formal gardens – walled spaces and quiet ponds, borders festooned with flowers, tree-lined paths, a cutting garden, a herb garden and a vegetable garden – a lot of what which was designed in the Edwardian period, when architect Edwin Lutyens created its garden rooms.
If you’re visiting with children, expect a long stay – there’s lots to keep them outdoors for hours. There’s a maze, brass rubbing activities and a windup sound box to help you identify the different songs of the birds who nest here. There’s an adventure playground, too, with long slides, a Fort Knebworth wooden climbing castle and a zip wire. (Take a towel – the kids are bound to insist on playing with the water features before they take on the bouncy castle.) And in the Wilderness Garden there are 70 life-sized models of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts. Take a wander, have a go at making your own cave drawings, and see what beasts you can find among the trees.
|Transport:||Rail: Stevenage rail then two-mile taxi ride|
|Price:||House and Garden (including park areas) £13, £12.50 seniors/under-17s, free under-threes, £46 family. Garden only (including park areas) £9.50, free under-threes, £34 family.|
|Opening hours:||Open Mar to Sep. Daily Jul and Aug. Check website for full opening before visiting. NB for one-off events, opening hours vary. Gardens and Dinosaur Trail, park and playground 11am–5pm (last ticket 4.15pm). House and exhibitions noon–5pm (last ticket 4.15pm).|
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